16 December 2012

Uganda: Museveni Calls Meeting On Nantaba Land 'Grabbing'

By reversing land acquisitions in Kayunga and Buikwe districts, junior Lands Minister Ida Nantaba has drawn the anger of investors, who have in retaliation sued her and government.

And The Observer has now learnt that President Museveni has been jolted into action, by calling a high -profile meeting to plan a way round the legal suits.

The Observer has learnt that the president will tomorrow, Monday meet Nantaba together with the minister of lands Housing and Urban Development, Daudi Migereko, and Uganda Land Registry officials. The meeting, which will take place at State House-Entebbe, will also be attended by Attorney General Peter Nyombi.

"The president has called us to find a way forward on the reversal of land evictions which have affected investors and led to the dragging of the ministry to court by some parties that have been aggrieved by the actions of the ministry," a source privy to the developments said.

The meeting comes as Nantaba continues to reverse recent land evictions, mostly by investors. The minister has been sued for trespass, looting, vandalism and destruction of private property. Recently, the minister stopped a private firm Riis Coffee Company Limited in Buleega village in Najja sub-county in Buikwe district from evicting over 40 families. The company has since sued Nantaba.

Riis officials claim they had already reached settlements with the farmers and paid them for land in order to develop large-scale coffee farming. They claim that the minister came in and ordered the farmers to return to land they had already surrendered through bonafide commercial transactions.

And a Kayunga businessman, Eriya Paulo Kiwanuka reportedly bought land in Kokotero sub-parish, Bbaale in Kayunga district. Kiwanuka has since sued the minister for ordering the evicted tenants to return to the land. Nantaba, who continues to reverse the land evictions, claims the land developers paid peanuts to the evicted land owners, and that some developers lack valid land titles.

We have been told by our source that the State House meeting will look into the legal basis of Nantaba's actions as well as the consequences which among them include law suits against the ministry.

"Some aggrieved parties have dragged us to court for trespass and we are in a dilemma because some were not aware of her actions," said one official in the Land Registry department.

The Observer understands that the Land Registry is annoyed with Nantaba for usurping its powers since it is charged with issuing certificates of titles, general conveyance, keeping custody of the national land register, coordination, inspection, monitoring and back-up technical support relating to land registration and acquisition processes.

"We are wondering how she could just causally claim to cancel titles. Does she have that mandate? Who gave her that power?" asked one official from the lands registry department.

The Lands Registry department is yet to offer an official comment. However, Migereko told The Observer that as a ministry, they will be looking into the matter and explore the available solutions.

"I cannot comfortably comment about the details of the said meeting but we plan to have all these issues resolved amicably," he told The Observer over the weekend.

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